Coal mining in the Northern District Coalfields of NSW has had a long and distinguished history which dates back to 1817 when the government first started mining operations in the area.
Unionism amongst coalminers has been active, in one form or another, in the Northern District region since the 1850s when many miners formed Lodges at the individual mines springing up around the Hunter Valley, Central Coast and Newcastle areas. From these early stages a sense of mateship, camaraderie and collectivism has existed and seen the continued growth of the Union movement.
In 1915 the founding body of the Federation was formed. The Federation was established with the goal of improving the conditions and protecting the interests of the Federation’s members. It is these same goals that exist today and are carried on in the form of the United Mineworkers’ Federation of Australia Northern District Branch, and the Mining and Energy Division of the CFMEU, which was created in 1992. The Union was formed following the amalgamation of the Federation, the Mines Mechanics and the FEDFA.
Mineworkers are proud of their history and the struggles they have fought and endured to achieve these benefits. We understand the great price that has been paid by miners and their families over the years in the struggles to improve health and safety standards in the Coal Industry. We honour those (almost 1800 men and boys) that have died whilst working in the Northern Coal Fields and who appear on the Jim Comerford Memorial Wall, which is located at the District Office.
Annually the District holds a Memorial Service at the District Office to pay our respects and to reaffirm our commitment to continue to fight for a safer industry.
People interested in the history of the Miners’ Federation are referred to the following books, all of which can be found in major Australian libraries.
Edgar Ross (1969) A History of the Miners’ Federation of Australia. ACSEF/Miners Federation, Sydney.
Robert Gollan (1963) The Coalminers of New South Wales. A history of the Union 1860-1960. Melbourne University Press.
Chris Fisher (1987) Coal and the State. Methuen, Sydney.
Andrew Metcalfe (1988) For Freedom and Dignity. Historical Agency and Class Structures in the Coalfields of NSW. Allen and Unwin, Sydney.
Jim Comerford (1997) Coal and Colonials. The Founding of the Australian Coal Mining Industry. NSW Northern District, Cessnock NSW.
Jim Comerford (2006) Lockout. The Northern NSW Coal Lockout 2nd March 1929 – 3rd June 1930. CFMEU Mining and Energy, Sydney.
Pete Thomas and Paddy Gorman (2000) The Coal Mines the Workers Ran. CFMEU Mining and Energy, Sydney.